A mention of the Erskine car in the November issue took me back to the late ‘twenties. At that time my father was a partner in a small concern which sold a few Erskines in the Manchester area, and I was a 15-year-old schoolboy.
One of the lesser-known evils of the Erskine was a particularly nasty version of a collapsible rim held to the wheel by four or five wedges driven into place by setbolts.
In theory one deflated the tube, collapsed the rim with a special tool and the tyre fell off. On the return trip however it was a different story as the special tool was useless to expand the rim. Things being what they were in the late ‘twenties, almost my only source of income was mending punctures in my father’s garage at 3d. a time. (My father and his partner shared the rest of the price the customer paid.)
However, the Erskine rims were so difficult to manage that I was able to extract 6d. per time which was wealth in those days. Then a little method study revealed that the use of a hydraulic jack and a specially shaped block of wood was the answer and I was able to expand rims and lock them “first time every time” but I had to be careful not to let my father see how easy it was!
Another example of exploitation occurred round about that time. The firm of Willys-Overland-Crossley at Stockport sold off very cheaply, kits of parts to build a light touring car. (It might have been called an Oakland, but the firm decided to scrap the idea after importing the parts for a few cars, from USA.)
One of the customers at my father’s garage bought a collection of parts and turned it over to me for assembly. After several trips back to the “works” to exchange surplus items for non-existent ones, the car was finally finished and ran very well. It was something like an old Model-T open tourer but the engine and gearbox were much better. I think I received £1 for that effort.
I wonder if any reader could supply any other information about this car? The building then occupied by WOC Ltd. is now occupied by Fairey Engineering. At one time plans were being made to assemble (or possibly to manufacture) Bugatti cars there and I believe one or two were actually made.
I remember on one visit to the “works” I saw a large Willys-Knight car with the words “Land’s End to John-O-Groats on top gear” emblazoned on each side.
It is an amazing coincidence that nearly forty-five years later I am vaguely concerned with another product from that same factory. Astute readers will probably guess but my address is a clue.
F. E. Greaves.